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Mobile in 2013: Halfway to the Multichannel Era

The mobile industry is clearly moving to the mainstream point of its latest cycle - the influence of consumer grade applications and content. The consensus vision is a multichannel future, but when?

As we look forward to 2013, we can look back in the history of mobile (yes, it's sometimes hard to remember the pre-App Store mobile world) to predict when the industry will shift to the next big wave of innovation and adoption.   

So, looking back, there have been four cycles of mass adoption so far in the mobile industry, and my observation is that each has taken about seven years to progress from emergence to mass adoption: 



1989: Voice - triggered by the success of the GSM standard and hardware price points

1996: Text - triggered by the networking effect of having devices with I/O at our sides at all times

2003: Email and Process apps - triggered by Research In Motion's success with the BlackBerry and the iPAQ, corporate users  

2010: Consumer Grade Applications and Content  - the iPhone, the entrance of Google into the mobile phone market with Android and finally Apple's introduction of the iPad changed the focus of the mobile world from business enablement to broad-based of high quality application and content.   

If you look at a variety of areas (user uptake, stock prices of vendors benefiting from a cycle, number of citations, number of startups funded), you will find evidence of this seven-year cycle.   

Why seven years?  I think there are multiple factors, among them: 

  1. People, first and foremost - the rate at which people can absorb new technolgies and form new habits. 
  2. Software Innovation:  major R&D cycles still take about ~2 years, so a 7 year cycle means three full turns that allow breakthroughs (year 0 in the cycle), early leaders (+2), not-so-fast followers (year +4), and laggards (year +6) and then the cycle begins all over again
  3. The mobile infrastructure - the networks and supporting systems require huge capital expenditure and architectural bets are place on 5-10 year cycles.  
  4. Business model maturation - each wave sparks profits that then find their way to fuel the next wave. 

So what's next?     

2017:  Multichannel User Experience, driven by breakthroughs in in-memory computing (performance), cloud (agility) and mobile virtualization (trust), will allow the curation and delivery of user experiences across multiple devices, multiple applications, and multiple sessions.   

Later this week I'll be reviewing in-depth this seven-year cycle and the top ten forces driving the industry towards multichannel, in my  Mobile Thought Leadership Webinar, this Thursday December 6 at 11:00am EST.   

Are you ready?